The Great Lunch Box Obsession: Why We Need To Stop

With my son Elliot starting prep next year, the lunch box topic has really got me thinking. I’ve seen a lot in the media and parenting groups about this very topic, including a lot of judgement,  and I’m positive I’m going to be one of those mums preparing lunch boxes on a daily basis with the whole lunch box debate floating around my head.

As I peer into the fridge, prepare his sandwich and other snacks for his lunch box, it’s likely I’ll be questioning myself, ‘is this healthy enough? Is it too high in simple carbs? Is there too much sugar? Will it be sent home? ‘ I know for a fact that the over-emphasis put on healthy lunch boxes will make me second guess myself and I know that there are many parents who are already in this situation.

What I’m disappointed in is the fact that parents DO feel this way because of the pressure they feel to do the right thing. But why should we be made to feel that way, why should any parent be made to feel that what they pack in their own child’s lunch box isn’t good enough or isn’t deemed healthy enough?

The great lunchbox obsession

If I go back to my school days, I can guarantee you that my teacher would have been sending food home left, right and centre if the same rules were in place. We always had a special treat in our lunch box – a twinkie bar, a jam donut, a packet of chips, a juice. But guess what? We weren’t overweight – we played sports after school, we rode our bikes in the yard. We ate this food in moderation, mum knew it was okay and it was part of a balanced diet.

But fast forward 20+ years and I reckon it’s gotten a bit out of hand.

Paleo lunchboxes, food made to look fancy, low GI, foods you can have, foods you can’t… Seriously? What happened to a sandwich, piece of fruit and a few healthy snacks?

The most recent story I’ve heard (and not the only one) was about a child who happily made some muffins with his mum and was excited to take one to school in his lunch box the next day. But when it came time to eat it, his teacher wouldn’t let him. She told him it was not healthy and the muffin was promptly put back in his lunch box to be sent home.

The boy’s mother was utterly confused and angry. The muffin was, in fact, a healthy muffin.  It didn’t even have sugar as applesauce was used as a natural sweetener instead. I was shocked to hear about this. What a horrible situation to put a child in.

the great lunchbox obsession

 A huge assumption was being made here. How did the teacher know the ingredients of this muffin? What if a child brought in a red velvet cupcake made with beetroot, no refined sugar and almond meal instead of refined flour?  Would the teacher look at that too and immediately think, ‘Oh, that’s a cupcake, it’s bad, he can’t eat it?’ They probably would and I don’t believe that is right. Do parents need to start resorting to including ingredient lists with all homemade products? Or perhaps we should just leave the responsibility of what to feed the child with the parents?

The fact is, it should’t really have even mattered if the muffin in question was a sugar-laden, double-chocolate muffin from a packet. I do not believe that anyone, apart from the child’s parents, is in a position to stipulate or comment on what a child should or shouldn’t have in their lunch box. How does a teacher or any other parent know what the child eats the rest of the time – for breakfast and dinner and in between? Or know what extracurricular activities that child does outside of school? Or how much they play outside after each school day in order to balance their diet and exercise? They are not there, they are not watching, so I don’t believe they are in a position to dictate what a school kid eats for lunch.

Don’t get me wrong, I have spoken to teacher friends and I’m aware that there are kids that come to school with absolutely terrible lunches. One I heard was a child coming to school with a large bag of chips for lunch. Now, if this happened, I completely agree with a teacher stepping in. But occasional foods every now and then, homemade ‘sweets’- that’s a parents’ call.


I’m all for healthy eating and I can understand teachers trying to do their bit or even that they are following a direction from a government initiative, but where is the line drawn and when can parents feel confident about making their own decisions on behalf of their child?

I truly believe parenting is getting harder; not because of our kids, but because of societal pressure. As a parent, I find it overwhelming, exhausting and mind-boggling and it’s taking away a lot of the joy that should be experienced as a parent. Let’s not steal any more of the fun away from childhood and parenting. Let’s just be smart about it and let teachers be teachers and parents be parents. Let parents worry about what they chose to feed their own children for lunch.

Have you ever felt judged because of what you feed your kids at school?

This post was first published on The Multitasking Woman.

Ways to create a healthy lunch box (no judgement here!):

Images: Pixabay